Isnin, 23 Disember 2013

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The Star Online: World Updates

Mission accomplished, says Snowden - Washington Post

Posted: 23 Dec 2013 08:50 PM PST

(Reuters) - Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed extensive details of global electronic surveillance by the U.S. spy agency, said in an interview published on Tuesday that he has accomplished what he set out to do.

"For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished," he told the Washington Post. The newspaper said it spoke to Snowden over two days of nearly unbroken conversation in Moscow, "fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry."

It was the first extensive face-to-face interview Snowden has granted since arriving in Russia in June and being given temporary asylum there.

"I already won," Snowden said. "As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."

Last week, a White House-appointed panel proposed curbs on some key NSA surveillance operations, recommending limits on a programme to collect records of billions of telephone calls, and new tests before Washington spies on foreign leaders. The panel's proposals were made in the wake of Snowden's revelations.

President Barack Obama later tried to strike a middle ground, saying some checks were needed on the NSA's surveillance, but "we can't unilaterally disarm.

In the interview, Snowden denied he was trying to bring down the NSA. "I am working to improve the NSA," he said. "I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don't realize it."

Snowden left his post in Hawaii in May and went public with his first revelations about the NSA from Hong Kong a few weeks later. Later in June, he left for Russia and stayed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport until the Kremlin granted him temporary one-year asylum after nearly six weeks.

Called a champion of human rights by his admirers and a traitor by critics, Snowden lives at an undisclosed location in the Russian capital. The Washington Post said he was unaccompanied when he met the reporter for the interview, and did not try to communicate furtively. He said he has had access to the Internet and to lawyers and journalists throughout his stay in Russia.


Snowden called himself "an indoor cat", and says he rarely leaves his house. "I just don't have a lot of needs," he said. "Occasionally there's things to go do, things to go see, people to meet, tasks to accomplish.

"But it's really got to be goal-oriented, you know. Otherwise, as long as I can sit down and think and write and talk to somebody, that's more meaningful to me than going out and looking at landmarks."

Snowden said he was an ascetic and lived off ramen noodles and chips. He has visitors and many of them bring books, but they pile up, unread.

He denied he had loyalties to Russia or China.

"I have no relationship with the Russian government," he said. "I have not entered into any agreements with them. If I defected at all, I defected from the government to the public."

(Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

South Sudan rebel leader sets out conditions for talks

Posted: 23 Dec 2013 07:05 PM PST

JUBA/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sought urgently on Monday to nearly double the size of the U.N. peacekeeping force in South Sudan, while rebel leader Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir both indicated they were ready to talk to try to end a deepening conflict that has killed hundreds of people.

A government official, however, said South Sudan would not meet Machar's demand that detained opposition leaders be released.

Ban asked the U.N. Security Council to send 5,500 more peacekeepers to South Sudan as soon as possible to protect civilians from the growing violence in the world's newest country. There are now some 6,700 U.N. troops and 670 police officers making up the U.N. force in South Sudan.

The 15-member council met to discuss the crisis and is due to vote on a resolution approving the increase in peacekeeping troops on Tuesday.

"As long as these two individuals are at loggerheads, refusing to sit down with one another, innocent people are being killed on nothing other than ethnic grounds in South Sudan," said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

She told reporters that Donald Booth, the U.S. special envoy to South Sudan, had met with the detained South Sudanese opposition leaders whose release Machar was demanding and found them "secure and well and very open to ending the crisis through dialogue and reconciliation."

Ban told reporters earlier that some 45,000 civilians were seeking protection at U.N. bases in South Sudan.

Booth, who met with Kiir in Juba on Monday, said the president had committed to opening talks with Machar but South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei told Reuters there would be no release of detained opposition leaders.

"There is no way we will release anybody who is accused of a coup d'etat," he said.

Makuei also dismissed claims by Machar, who was South Sudan's vice president until Kiir dismissed him in July, that his rebels have taken over all the major oil fields in Unity and Upper Nile states as "wishful thinking."

Hours before meeting Booth, Kiir vowed to attack the town of Bor, the rebel-held capital of Jonglei State, amid deepening fears that the conflict is provoking broader ethnic bloodletting.

"President Kiir committed to me that he was ready to begin talks with Riek Machar to end the crisis without preconditions as soon as his counterpart is willing," Booth told reporters.

"We notice that the African Union has said there is Christmas season upon us, and called for all parties to cease hostilities. We support that call," Booth said.

Western powers and east African states, anxious to prevent the fighting from destabilising a particularly fragile region, have tried to mediate between Machar, who hails from the Nuer tribe, and Kiir, a Dinka.

So far their efforts have been fruitless as clashes which started in Juba on December 15 entered a second week, reaching the country's vital oil fields and destabilising a state that won independence from Sudan only in 2011.

Hundreds of people have been killed, with reports of summary executions and ethnically targeted slayings.

Speaking from "the bush," Machar told Reuters he had spoken to U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice and U.N. envoy Hilde Johnson about trying to end fighting that has killed hundreds of people and driven thousands from their homes.

"My message was let Salva Kiir release my comrades who are under detention and let them be evacuated to Addis Ababa and we can start dialogue straightaway, because these are the people who would (handle) dialogue," he said by telephone.

Among those Machar listed should be released were Pagan Amum, chief negotiator during the recent oil shutdown with Sudan, which hosts the sole oil export pipeline; and Rebecca de Mabior, the widow of former South Sudanese leader John Garang.

"They are criminals who must be brought to the books, so there is no way we can negotiate with (Machar)," Makeui said. "We are only ready to negotiate with him unconditionally."

He dismissed Machar's suggestion that the peace talks be held in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, insisting they take place in Juba.


Joe Contreras, the U.N. spokesman in South Sudan, said the United Nations would not leave the country despite the worsening conflict.

"For those elements who are trying to intimidate us or who have attacked us, the message is loud and clear: we are here to serve the people of South Sudan and we are not leaving the country under any circumstances," Contreras said.

Two Indian peacekeepers and at least 11 Dinka civilians were killed last week in an attack by about 2,000 armed youths from another ethnic group on a U.N. peacekeeping base in Jonglei state.

Both Machar and Kiir have denied opposing claims that they are stoking ethnic tensions in a country boasting many tribes but where the Nuer, and in particular the Dinka, are dominant.

But many of the people seeking shelter inside sprawling U.N. compounds say the conflict is certainly ethnically based.

"We still don't feel secure, but it is definitely safer here," said Deng, a man who saw several dead bodies lying face down as he took his frightened family to a U.N. base in Juba.

The United States said it is repositioning its forces in Africa as the U.S. military prepares for the possibility of further evacuations of Americans and other foreign citizens from South Sudan.

Kiir told parliament that government troops were ready to attack Bor, where about 17,000 people were seeking refuge at a U.N. compound. Makuei said government troops also were looking to take back the Unity State capital, Bentiu.

Toby Lanzer, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, said on a recent visit to Bor that many humanitarian compounds there had been looted. "There was a lot of looting, a lot of gunshots and a lot of dead bodies," he told the BBC.

While Juba remains tense but calm, Contreras said there were reports of fighting between rival Sudan People's Liberation Army factions about 25 km (15 miles) east of the capital.

(Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho in Juba and Edmund Blair in Nairobi; Writing by Drazen Jorgic and Christopher Wilson; Editing by David Evans, David Brunnstrom and Bill Trott)

At least 11 killed, over 100 wounded in big blast in Egypt's Nile Delta

Posted: 23 Dec 2013 07:05 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - At least 11 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in a massive explosion at a security compound in Egypt's Nile Delta town of Dakahlyia on Tuesday, a month before a vote on a new constitution key to transition from military-backed rule.

Cabinet spokesman Sherief Shawki blamed the blast on the Muslim Brotherhood group of former Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, and said Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi had officially declared the group a terrorist organisation.

A security source said the blast may have been caused by a car bomb, but it was not clear if it was suicide attack or not.

State TV said at least 11 people were killed and more than 100 hurt. It said the attack was the worst in the city's history and two senior security officials were among the wounded.

Another security source it was still unclear what caused the explosion, "but it seems to be a big one that led to the collapse of parts of the security building".

Suicide attacks on soldiers and policemen have sharply risen in Egypt since the army ousted Mursi in July amid mass unrest against his rule.

In overthrowing Mursi, the army set out a political roadmap supposed to start with a mid-January vote on a new constitution and to be followed by presidential and parliamentary votes.

The state-run Middle East News Agency quoted Beblawi as saying that those responsible for blast "will not escape punishment".

Brotherhood officials, most of whom are on the run or out of the country, could not be immediately reached for comment on the government charges.


Witnesses in Dakahlyia said many cars inside and outside the security compound were burned out and the entire city was in chaos as people were hurrying to hospitals to check on victims.

Egypt's Nile News TV cut into its late-night programming to urge people to go to hospitals to donate blood to the victims.

Most bomb attacks since Mursi's overthrow have occurred in the Sinai region, which borders Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip. Around 200 soldiers have died in Sinai since July.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim survived a suicide car bomb attack targeting his convoy near his home in Cairo last September.

Egyptian media and many army and state officials have blamed all the violence on Mursi's Brotherhood, the state's oldest and most organised Islamist group, which has won all five elections since a 2011 uprising that ousted longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Mursi's dramatic exit triggered a wave of violence that started with police attacks on his supporters' two main camps in Cairo on August 14 in which hundreds were killed.

That violence prompted a wave of attacks on churches and police stations. Thousands of Islamist activists have been arrested in the unrest and around 100 policemen killed.


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